More importantly, how did you get Katherine to dance and take her clothes off?!
Ha! I wrote the script LONG before we cast the ever lovely Katherine Heigl. (smile) I don’t think Katherine thought of the script or scenes as gratuitous. Nudity is part of being a real woman and almost every scene in the film serves as a metaphor for where she is at in her life.
As a female director, I never want to shy away from various levels of dress or undress. I am proud to be a woman and think film NEEDS to reflect life…daily life contains moments of dress and undress. I guess you could say that my personal brand of feminism celebrates women’s bodies and our differences. I never intended for any aspect of this script to be gratuitous HOWEVER, I think because Katherine is SO lovely to look at, some folks immediately assume that we shot these scenes to capitalize on her ‘attributes’. However, there is much more there than meets the eye. (smile)
What do you think drew Katherine and the other actors to the script?
Katherine repeatedly said that she loved the writing (I write in a very casual sort of way that most industry folks rip me to shreds for). The journey of the lead character also resonated with her as she said she has often been at the fork in the road… do the right thing or sell out for the big paycheck… money and stuff vs. integrity and passion. And as mentioned, I think she also saw this film as an opportunity to show both her comedic and dramatic range. I think her growing number of fans are also thrilled to see her take on this type of role.
Many of the actors also seemed drawn to the topic (pharmaceutical industry) and unique style of the film (vignettes and documentary style scenes woven throughout a slightly mainstream storyline).
When all is said and done, I feel humbled and fortunate as hell to have worked with such a great group of people. In particular, as a first time director, working with Katherine was amazing… the camera and screen love her.
What format did you shoot the film in? Did you choose the format for its look, or was it budgetary?
We shot Side Effects digitally on the Panasonic DVX 100. Budget dictated everything we did.
What problems did you run into during production?
Too little money.
Too little time.
Too large of a cast.
Too many locations.
The list goes on and on…I hear studio films think they have these same problems.
Side Effects enjoyed a healthy film festival tour, how did audiences respond?
Honestly, I still feel like a deer caught in the headlights. We opened the film at Cinequest Film Festival and that is when all hell broke loose with the press… full page articles in USA Today, Associated Press, CNN, British Medical Journal. I was shaking in my shoes because we were just this little indie film from Wisconsin and on more than one occasion I felt myself almost hyperventilating when facing the press and repeated sold out crowds. The audience response has blown us away… in spite of being super low budget (or maybe because of it), folks have really embraced Side Effects.
The film also screened in theaters, self-released by your company, is there any advice you care to impart to filmmakers who choose this path?
I would actually advise most filmmakers to take the bull by the horns and do things yourself… realize that you do not need to wait around for someone to give you permission to make the film, bring the film to the media, bring the film to theaters, bring the film to DVD, etc. We each have more power than we realize, but we need to recognize that power and have the ovaries/balls to not just do things business as usual.
I talk to a lot of writers/filmmakers who are frustrated… but many of them are just sitting around waiting for someone else to do something with their project. Many of these people expend an enormous amount of time ‘networking’… trying to get to the powers that be and trying to get these powers to recognize them. If those same filmmakers would take all of that time/energy spent networking and actually start USING it toward PERSONALLY moving their project forward…fundraising, project planning, etc. MAKE IT HAPPEN, instead of waiting for it to happen.
At every step of the way, I had people telling me that I ‘couldn’t’ do things… ”you can’t raise the money that fast,” “there is no way you can be shooting by July 19th,” “there is no way that you will land a name talent actress with your budget/timeframe,” “you shouldn’t cross genres or include documentary components,” “you can’t shoot this film in two weeks”… this is just a SMALL sampling. Every time I heard this, I followed my instincts rather than their advice. I actually used these comments as ammunition to fuel my motivation… my persistence. Life is too darn full of people saying “can’t” and I think this is exactly what holds a lot of writers/filmmakers back. Once they hear can’t, they don’t. Step out of the box, out of business as usual, and just do it yourself.
Also, one practical pointer, when fundraising, be sure to budget money for PR and advertising. Don’t rely on some distributor to pick up your film (again, waiting for permission). Even if one does, it could be your worst nightmare… you sign away the rights and then they lose interest… or they don’t pay you due to funky accounting… or they completely miss the boat on who/how to market it… or they re-edit it, change the artwork, etc and it becomes a mess.
The DVD is also be released in a DIY style — in fact, Side Effects is coming to DVD solely by the efforts of you and those in your company — what would you say to any filmmakers considering this approach?
Again, I say go for it, but you really need to know how much work up front a DVD release is and how much lead time you need to make it happen. The ‘making of’ the DVD was a ton of fun because we got to get back into creative mode… artwork for cover, DVD menu look/feel, production of bonus material, etc. That said, each and every one of these things is consuming… of time and money. You need to plan ahead and be ready to be as creative, savvy, and exhausted as you were during production of the film itself. Those thinking about this path should really start studying DVDs right now… studying menus, studying bonus material, looking for ways to do things better and more interesting… looking for ways to push the envelope and give audiences a reason to want the DVD. For me personally, I am more excited about the DVD release than I was the theatrical release because we are able to offer the audience SO MUCH MORE. I am particularly happy about our fun ‘behind the scenes’ footage… I think folks will get a good glimpse at indie filmmaking and Katherine Heigl fans will also love seeing her hanging out and messing around on set.
Tell me what you’re working on right now.
Our team also went on to produce a documentary on the issues of drug promotion and ethics called Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety which is also currently releasing on DVD. It is a much more academic and straight shooting approach to the subject and obviously does not feature the lovely Ms. Heigl. That said, the information it contains is so compelling that we are thrilled to be able to offer this more serious approach as well. I think the general public and medical community is going to walk away from this film with their eyes wide open as to how the pharmaceutical industry operates behind the scenes.
I am also currently writing two other scripts… one on marriage which I just did some preliminary shooting for… I am really excited about this and it is hard to put it on the backburner while we are knee deep in the distribution of Side Effects and Money Talks. I’m already casting in my head…
Anything you’d like to tell me that I did not ask?
I think you basically took me through the ringer here… (smile) Seriously though, we are excited that a publishing company will be taking the script of Side Effects to book format on June 1st. Those interested in writing/filmmaking will be able to see how we took the film from script to screen…the script includes deleted scenes, behind the scenes photos and an alternative ending that I originally wrote. It was a lot of fun to see this come together. The book will be available through our website.
Side Effects is available now on DVD! Order your copy today at the official Side Effects website, where you can also pre-order the Side Effects script. Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety feature documentary is available on DVD through the official Money Talks website…